|Hostel Bar Pitch & Putt Achill Island County Mayo Ireland|
The Valley House sits on the former estate of the Earl of Cavan, who built a hunting lodge there and visited often in the 1850's. Upon his death, the estate was sold to Agnes MacDonnell, a formidable and some would say eccentric, English landlady.
She ran the estate almost single-handedly
as her barrister husband, John Randal MacDonnell, rarely visited from
their home in London. Mrs. MacDonnell has been described as a "very handsome
woman, with a fine head of red hair". She became known locally as "The
Yellow Lady" and was considered a tough landlady who always collected
what was due to her, either in cash or in kind.
The other main player in this story, James
Lynchehaun, was considered a handsome man, some five foot ten
He had a civilized and somewhat dapper appearance and was well educated by the monks at Bunacurry monastery in Achill. He taught national school for a time, but was sacked after he falsified the roll in order to increase his pay. He had at one time been a member of the Metropolitan Police Force in Manchester. He returned to Ireland after a number of exploits and was eventually employed by Mrs. MacDonnell as her land agent. He set up his home and a small grocery shop in two semi-detached cottages on The Valley House estate.
His salary as land agent was set at £15 a year, but his employment was short-lived and lasted only 3 months, after which he was given notice to quit. Through his knowledge of the law as a former police man, he hung on from court to court, further antagonizing his employer with each postponement. Mrs. MacDonnell finally threatened to treble his rent unless he gave up possession of the house.
What created such bitterness between Agnes and James? It may have simply been caused by bad business dealings or it may also have been based on a more personal relationship which soured. Lynchehaun later claimed that his actions were motivated purely by politics and carried out on behalf of the Irish Republican Brotherhood in order to run the English landlady off the estate. However, only the two people involved really know for sure. What we can be sure of is that this bitterness led to the attack on Agnes, and The Valley House, on an autumn night in 1894.
here for more images of Agnes and John Randal MacDonnell
Agnes MacDonnell was alone in the Valley House with her little dog Tip on the night of October 6th, 1894 when the cry was raised in the village - "The big house is on fire!". It was the man who set that fire, James Lynchehaun, who appeared at the back door to lead Agnes MacDonnell from the flames. Instead he dragged her behind a haystack, where he savagely attacked her and left her for dead. Her injuries were so severe she was not expected to live. Her nose had been bitten off and she lost one eye as a result of the attack. For the remainder of her days she wore a silver plate over her nose and a veil over her face to hide her disfigurement.
Lynchehaun was arrested and taken to Castlebar jail, from where it was necessary to bring him back to the Valley on four separate occasions for Mrs. MacDonnell's depositions to be heard. This required a journey by rail to Mulranny and from there onwards by jaunting car. On the final trip, although handcuffed and escorted by two armed constables, Lynchehaun leapt off the car and disappeared into the darkness in the vicinity of his uncle's house, which was situated on the Mulranny side of Achill Sound. There his relatives prepared him to run. He reentered Achill by boat and subsequently went into hiding underneath the floorboards in the house of a friend. He remained there for three months, during which an army of 300 Royal Irish Constabulary policemen combed the island for him.
Portrait of Agnes MacDonnell
Meanwhile, the government had put a price of £200 on his head, with Mrs. MacDonnell making it up to £300, while the locals where busy composing ballads to celebrate the confusion of the authorities. Eventually the fugitive was betrayed for the money and this time he was incarcerated in Maryborough jail in the midlands. After seven years incarceration there he once again managed to escape, this time clad only in his shirt and drawers.
His adventure ended in Chicago 82 days later where he was apprehended and there began the major political debate of the day, based on the efforts of the British authorities to have him extradited back to Ireland to finish paying for his crimes.The efforts of the British government failed, despite a retrial and a hearing in the Supreme Court, and Lynchehaun remained in America for many more years. At first popular with the expatriate community, he went into decline after Michael Davitt, whom he met in Cleveland at a public meeting, refused to shake his hand, saying "I will not shake the hand of a murderer".
Lynchehaun returned to Achill twice, once in 1907 disguised as an American tourist, and then in 1918 at which time he was arrested and deported. He is said to have died in Girvan, Scotland in 1937 when he would have been around the age of seventy-seven.
here to enlarge the picture
In 1998, an Irish & German produced film,
"This woman was endowed with splendid courage and vitality, though, poor wreck, she will live for a few and miserable years"
…Judge Gibson speaking of Agnes MacDonnell in 1895, when giving judgment on Lynchehaun. The judge was proved wrong however - she lived on another 28 years, dying on the 28th of May, 1923.
Ballads of the day written about James Lynchehaun:
Some years ago here in Mayo, We had a great outrage; A lady's place in Achill was almost set ablaze. The Lady too was cruelly used and taken was the man, to Castlebar Jail they did repair and bring brave Lynchehaun.
If you heard the
murmuring on every barrack wall:
I'm Lynchehan, I'm Lynchehan, I am that very man, I'm Lynchehan, I'm Lynchehan, Let them catch me if they can.
The British forces can't do that Now since the chase began; Sure the people know where e'er I go, That I am Lynchehan
A cattle drover from Mayo, Was taken for me twice, Whilst I was looking at the foe, Sure this was very nice.
Some years ago here in Mayo,
They had a hunt before.
After years of trail they captured me
On Achill's rugged shore.
Three hundred warriors on my track,
Sure many a mile they ran,
O'er barren ground before they found
The Famous Lynchehan.